By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - Australian Bernard Tomic reminded tennis fans of his potential as he reached the last 16 at Wimbledon on Saturday but admitted it was hard not having his father there to watch him triumph on the sport's greatest stage.
The lanky 20-year-old scored one of his biggest triumphs as he progressed with a hard-fought third-round victory over French grass court specialist Richard Gasquet 7-6(7) 5-7 7-5 7-6(5).
It was a change for the headlines to be all about tennis.
His father and coach John is facing a court case for allegedly assaulting his son's former practice partner, Frenchman Thomas Drouet. Tomic senior has been suspended from ATP events pending the outcome of the case.
At the start of his post-match news conference, Tomic said he really did not want to talk about the situation with his father, who is in London for the tournament but banned from the All England Club grounds by Wimbledon officials.
But then he opened up after persistent questioning, saying "When I leave the site, I'm with my dad. He's helping me at the tournament. We're doing the right things.
"I'm not doing it on my own. My dad is still involved," added Tomic, who as an 18-year-old qualifier made it all the way to the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2011.
Tomic rang his father straight after the match. "He said I did the right things to have a chance of beating Richard."
Asked what it was like to look up on court and see his father was not there, he said: "It's difficult. It's hard. It's not the same feeling."
Questioned as to whether he might ask Wimbledon to relent and let his dad in now he has made the second week, Tomic could not resist jokingly telling reporters amid much laughter: "Yeah well maybe my dad is watching. Maybe you just can't see him."
Tomic's next opponent is former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, the seventh seeded Czech.
"I'm playing a guy now who's been in the final of this tournament before. It's not easy. They guy can beat (Roger) Federer, can beat Novak Djokovic, can beat everyone. It's not easy playing this guy," he said.
Gasquet, who has reached the last 16 for the last two years at Wimbledon, was bitterly disappointed but dignified and generous in defeat, saying of Tomic: "He is a very good player and served incredibly well. Bravo to him."
(Reporting by Paul Majendie; Editing by Ken Ferris)